Cyclone Bulbul hit India yesterday, leaving two dead as authorities in the country ordered thousands of people to get out of the path of the storm as it gained power.
The eye of the storm, packing winds of up to 120km per hour, was expected to hit the Bay of Bengal coast near the Bangladesh-India frontier.
Airport and port were shut down and the deaths were reported before the full force of the cyclone had hit. One person was killed by an uprooted tree in Kolkata and another by a wall that collapsed under the force of the winds in Odisha state, authorities said.
More than 120,000 people were moved away from the coast in West Bengal.
Flights in and out of Kolkata airport were suspended for 12 hours because of the storm.
On the West Bengal island of Mousouni, which lies in the path of the storm, frightened residents took shelter in schools and government buildings because they had not been able to escape.
Military planes and ships have been put on standby to help in emergencies, the authorities said.
Bulbul was expected to hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, which straddles Bangladesh and part of eastern India, and is home to endangered species including the Bengal tiger.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who monitored the preventive measures from a special control room set up at the secretariat Nabanna, said “more than 120,000 people have already been rescued from vulnerable coastal areas”.
She asked people not to panic.
“Please do not panic. Kindly remain calm and co-operate with the administration in its rescue and relief efforts. Be alert, take care and stay safe,” Banerjee tweeted.
As a safety measure, the state government ordered a holiday for schools and colleges.
“Our state administration is closely monitoring the situation 24x7. We are taking all measures to tackle any contingency. Special control rooms have been set up and rescue teams are deployed,” she said in another twitter post.
Ferry services on various rivers were suspended for the day. As evening descended, buses and cabs disappeared from Kolkata roads, which looked deserted.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.
While the frequency and intensity have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of 4,000 cyclone shelters along the coast.
In November 2007, Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 people. In May this year, Fani became the most powerful storm to hit the country in five years, but the death toll was about 12.
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